Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paper Towns by John Green (book review)

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paper Towns is my favorite John Green novel so far, and that's saying a lot. I've read all of his young adult novels except for Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Let It Snow. I loved Looking for Alaska. I thoroughly enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines. I was disappointed with some aspects of The Fault in Our Stars. I let the hype get to me and so I expected it to be an A+ when it is merely an A. Still, it's an A. But this one--Paper Towns--is my favorite so far. It's both deeply philosophical and extraordinarily gloriously full of sophomoric humor, encompassing two of my favorite things, questions about the meaning of life and dick jokes.

This book is cataloged as a "mystery" in my library's young adult section. I dunno. I think it's too literary to fit neatly into genre fiction. It's less of a story about a guy following clues to his missing wanna-be girlfriend and more of a story about two people opening themselves up to being known, to being understood, and to knowing others, after mistaking next-door-neighborliness for closeness. How Green alludes to Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" in the same novel in which he turns a full bladder on a road trip into one of the most laugh-out-loud scenes from a book I've ever read is a mystery to me.

Piss jokes aside, to me the most memorable scene is the one in which the protagonist steps on a tack and forces himself to pick the other tacks up off the floor, despite his emotional and physical fatigue. I was never that sort of teenager. I was the sort of teenager who would have balled up into a fetal position and sobbed about the injustice of stepping on a tack without ever doing anything to get the tacks off my floor. Sure, I've made it through life OK, but damn I sure had to step on a lot of tacks. As I read about this character picking up his tacks, I wanted to shout out, "Yes! This boy is a hero in his own story. He's going to make it." And, as I got to the end of the book, it turns out I was right.

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